As more than four years apart from his wife comes to an end, Roohallah Khatami defends his Ph.D. dissertation, “Continuous-Time Optimization of Systems Operations,” a dissertation that would earn him the prestigious 2020 Outstanding Dissertation Award for the College of Engineering.

One of two recipients, the award comes with opportunities for Khatami, a milestone as he pursues a career in academia. His wife, who has not yet been able to join him in the U.S. due to visa complications, could not help but shed tears of joy for Khatami’s accomplishments and hard work.

After countless complex mathematical models and the help of Khatami’s supervisor, University of Utah electrical and computer engineering assistant professor Masood Parvania, he gave a common research topic a twist.

“My research is about how to operate the power systems to keep the lights on at minimum cost,” Khatami said. “With the integration of renewable energy resources, new challenges have emerged. My goal in my dissertation is to introduce a novel power system operation model to address some of these challenges.”

Full of new findings while creating models of how to store energy, Khatami stumbled upon a now patented mathematical concept explaining the monetary value of the energy stored.

“I would say the whole dissertation was a surprise in terms of novelty,” Khatami said. “Amazing results also emerged from the stochastic power system operation models, which lead to introducing a novel definition of flexibility reserve in power systems.”

Khatami planned to come to the U.S. in 2016 to pursue his Ph.D. In March of 2015, application deadlines for the year had passed and Khatami’s plan stayed the same until Parvania announced an opening at the U. Parvania quickly took notice of Khatami’s application. Khatami already aced the Test of English as a Foreign Language and then passed the GRE, bringing him to the U.

“I would say it was God’s hand that put me at the U of U,” Khatami said.

“I would like to thank my supervisor Dr. Masood Parvania for his ceaseless education and support,” Khatami said, “Dr. [Florian] Solzbacher and Dr. [Marc] Bodson for their letters of recommendation. Finally, I want to thank my family, specifically my wife, who supported me during the whole Ph.D. journey. My wife, even though she did not get a chance to join me in the U.S.… was always patient and supportive.